A lockdown project by Donald Fletcher and family has seen a rare four wheel drive Ferguson TE20 fully restored on their Isle of Islay farm, home to the tractor since bought new by Donald’s late father in 1956.
Like many farming folk on Islay, Donald and his wife Rosemary established alternative enterprises. In their case holiday accommodation, pottery and coffee shop on an island warmed by the Gulf Stream.
Then came lockdown last March with tourists and bird watchers no longer flocking to the Fletchers’ Perabus Farm near Port Askaig village.
“With time on my hands restoring the 4WD Ferguson became a more structured projected,” explained Donald Fletcher. “For the previous couple of years I had in mind restoring the wee grey Fergie, but we always seemed to be too busy.
“It proved a project that caught the imagination of our whole family and many neighbours as this tractor had always been pretty well known as the first 4WD on Islay.
“From the age of seven I was using her with a two furrow plough and with her 4WD she could be used for field work and feeding stock when rear wheel drive only tractors were not fit for the job.”
As Donald noted in 1953, Selene, a pioneer of 4WD based near Turin in Italy, developed a conversion kit for the TE20. At the same time Selene fitted these converted Fergies with Perkins P3 diesel engines.
Several of these very special Fergusons were imported by Reekie Engineering of Arbroath during the mid-1950s and one was then shipped from Glasgow by steamer to Islay customer Archie Fletcher, Donald’s father.
Though it seems the 4WD, an as yet unproven innovation from Italy, was not accepted at first by cost conscious British farmers, hence only a handful of 4WD TE20 Fergusons were sold and few now exist.
When lockdown came last spring it gave Donald Fletcher not only extra time, but extra hands as various family members returned home. The younger members helped with body work restoration under the guidance of Gregor Fletcher of Fletcher Fabworks, the Inverclyde-based bespoke metal fabrication service repairing and creating metal products, including steel and aluminium.
Meanwhile, Donald was busy tackling the engine and sourcing genuine spare parts. “It had to be stripped down, cleaned and restored before the magic moment when we got her going again.
“She was always ‘my tractor’ as Dad was quite happy to have an enthusiastic wee tractor man in me during my school days. So it was a great joy that all our family in lockdown were home from around the globe not only to help with the restoration, but each to take a drive around the field with the fab Fergie!
“Now my 2021 project is restoring the many original implements for the Ferguson still here, followed by tackling our Fordson Major that came to Persabus Farm in 1972.”
n Looking ahead to the summer and autumn of 2021, Donald and Rosemary offer a warm welcome to farming families and vintage tractor folk visiting their cafe, farmhouse accommodation, camping and self-catering facilities. Browse www.persabus.co.uk or telephone 01496 840243 for further details.